Tags: Gasoline | Prices | Stable | Despite | Occasional | Gouging

Gasoline Prices Stable Despite Occasional Gouging

Wednesday, 12 September 2001 12:00 AM

Long lines formed at pumps nationwide after Tuesday's East Coast terror attacks as motorists tried to top their tanks, fearing price rises and interrupted petroleum supplies from the Middle East.

The American Automobile Association said gas prices and supplies were stable across the nation Wednesday despite reports of some station owners charging $3 to more than $5 for gas - three times the national average price of $1.54 a gallon - Tuesday afternoon after the frightening terrorist attacks that destroyed the World Trade Center in New York and collapsed a section of the Pentagon were broadcast live on television.

"Because the nation just endured incredible trauma, it is understandable that some motorists or gasoline station owners may have briefly overreacted to the situation," said Robert Darbelnet, president of the American Automobile Club. "As calm returns to the nation, however, AAA expects station owners and motorists will behave responsibly in both the pricing and consumption of gasoline."

Illinois Gov. George Ryan spoke with Bill Fleischli, executive vice president of the Illinois Petroleum Marketing Association, and asked him to tell association members to keep their prices in line.

"I'm not sure exactly what my authority is at this point," Ryan said. "But we're going to use every means at our disposal to make sure that gasoline prices don't go sky-high because of this tragedy."

Fleischli said there was no doubt some people were acting irrationally.

"Prices reflected a wholesale price increase of 30 to 40 cents a gallon because of the uncertainty," Fleischli said, adding that prices were averaging close to $2 a gallon. "Some retailers in Illinois and other states charged between $2.75 and $4," he told United Press International.

A Total station in Omaha charged $4 for self-serve regular Tuesday afternoon. Long lines of vehicles waited more up to an hour to fuel up at Cincinnati-area filling stations, where prices jumped more than 25 cents a gallon.

A sign advertised $6 a gallon regular at closed station in Oakdale, Minn., near Minneapolis.

In Detroit, some stations ran out of gasoline Tuesday evening, but Marathon Ashland Petroleum LLC, which refines 74,000 barrels of oil a day, said there was no lack of crude oil in the Midwest.

Oil prices for North Sea Brent crude on the International Petroleum Exchange spiked up $3.60 before settling at $29.06 a barrel, an increase of $1.61. The exchange was closed Wednesday.

Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack chastised station owners that raised prices Tuesday, calling it "unacceptable profit." He said Iowa's attorney general would investigate unethical price gouging.

Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., said he was outraged by reports of price gouging and had contacted with Federal Trade Commission, Department of Energy and the Wisconsin attorney general's office.

South Dakota Gov. Bill Janklow said his office was collecting price information. He said preying on the public's fear for greed was "unconscionable." Texas Attorney General John Coryn said his office had launched an investigation of exorbitant retail prices at some stations.

"The terrible events of yesterday had nothing to do with oil or gasoline supplies, and for this reason panic buying or pricing would be absolutely irresponsible," the AAA said, urging motorists to give blood instead of lining up to buy gasoline.

Exxon Mobil Corp. said in a press release that it had not raised pump prices at its nearly 1,000 corporate-owned stations. More than 15,000 Exxon Mobil gas stations are operated by independent dealers or distributors.

"We cannot control what independent dealers or distributors do, but are encouraging them to act responsibly," the release said.

Equilon Enterprises LLC, which markets Shell and Texaco-branded fuel to 22,000 stations nationwide, said fuel inventory remained adequate to meet normal levels of demand and said it would hold gasoline and diesel prices steady for the next few days.

The Houston refiner urged consumers to buy gasoline normally to prevent wild price swings.

The American Petroleum Institute deplored price gouging and said any crime should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

"We are aware of reports of lines forming at gas pumps in some sections of the country and of isolated panic-related incidents caused by fears that a disruption in the gasoline supply system could lead to higher prices or shortages," API said. "There are allegations that some gasoline stations are taking advantage of the situation to increase their prices."

The API said crude oil inventories rose 22,000 barrels last week to 309.4 million barrels, 5.6 percent higher than a year ago.

Copyright 2001 by United Press International.

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Long lines formed at pumps nationwide after Tuesday's East Coast terror attacks as motorists tried to top their tanks, fearing price rises and interrupted petroleum supplies from the Middle East. The American Automobile Association said gas prices and supplies were stable...
Wednesday, 12 September 2001 12:00 AM
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